Background checks, a metric for gun sales, hit all-time high

Background checks, a metric for gun sales, hit all-time high

Historic numbers of background checks to purchase or possess a firearm were done in June, a trend in a year marked by uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic, a subsequent economic recession, protests over racial injustice and calls to reduce police funding.

FBI numbers released Wednesday show that 3.9 million background checks were conducted last month, the most since the system was created in November 1998 to ensure felons and other prohibited people could not buy or possess a firearm. The previous monthly record came in March, when 3.7 million checks were done. Each week in June is now in the top 10 weeks for background checks.

Halfway through 2020, just over 19 million checks have been done, more than all of 2012 and each of the years before that.

Background checks are the key barometer of gun sales, but the FBI’s monthly figures also incorporate checks for permits that some states require to carry a firearm. Each background check also could be for the sale of more than one gun.

Firearm sales traditionally increase during presidential election years, fueled by fears among gun owners that the next president could restrict their rights. But this year has seen a series of previously unheard-of numbers as one crisis after another has emerged: the coronavirus, demonstrations over racial inequality and police brutality, as well as deep political divisions among Americans.

Adjusted to reflect only gun purchases, the number of checks for June was up nearly 136% over June 2019, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers. That adjusted figure was 2.2 million, the group said.

“Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing. Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety,” said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the group.

Oliva said gun purchases are a reasonable reaction to the political climate.

“Politicians who entertain notions of defunding police departments are the same ones who call for strict gun control and even outright confiscation,” he said. “These figures aren’t push polls. They are representative of Americans from all walks of life who are taking action and taking responsibility for their rights and their safety.”

Gun control advocates worried that those buying a gun for personal safety may not have enough training to handle or store it correctly.

The eye-popping numbers began at the beginning of the year and continued to crush records amid the nation’s crises. So far, this year has seen half of the 10 busiest days on record and seven of the 10 busiest weeks — half of them in June.

At the beginning of the pandemic, as states issued stay-at-home orders and worries emerged about economic turmoil, long lines snaked outside of some gun shops and people emptied shelves of ammunition. Protests that began in late May, with some calling for defunding law enforcement, stirred some people’s worries about defending themselves if police are unable to respond to calls.

An estimated 40% of those purchasing firearms are first-time buyers, the National Shooting Sports Foundation said.

“I’m extremely concerned about those people who, in this time of uncertainty and fear, have been sold on the gun industry narrative that in uncertain times, when you’re feeling out of control, your possession of a firearm will satisfy that fear,” said David Chipman, senior policy director for the Giffords gun control group.

Chipman, a retired agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the numbers are not mere blips.

“This can no longer be characterized as a spike. This is a sustained uptick in sales that has continued for an unprecedented amount of months now,” he said.

Lisa Marie Pane, The Associated Press

guns

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read